The marketing and corporate communications functions are not fully aligned at more than half (52 percent) of companies, despite the growing importance of synchronizing brand image and corporate reputation in the digital and social media age, according to a survey of chief marketing officers released by The CMO Club and Hill & Knowlton.  


"CMOs quickly are trying to learn best practices and how to bring teams together to address the continually evolving digital communications landscape, which is driving unprecedented transparency between businesses and their audiences," says Pete Krainik, founder, The CMO Club. "In the course of learning, CMOs are challenged with new responsibilities not traditionally part of the marketing arena and many are solely responsible for delivering successful programs beyond the marketing departments."


"Alignment around all brand messages is especially critical in the increasingly multi-channel environment we find ourselves in,” adds Lauri Kien Kotcher, chief marketing officer and senior VP of global brand development at Godiva. “Marketing, selling, human resources and personal communications messages are all blending. The number of touch points keeps growing with different timelines for message development, which also makes the challenge of maintaining consistency across key brand messages harder than ever."


CMOs who report the highest levels of alignment between corporate communications and marketing establish objective setting with blended and collective rewards. Firms where joint metrics and joint rewards systems have been created (66 percent) or joint objectives without joint rewards systems (71 percent) report much higher levels of being "fully aligned" compared to firms where objectives are not shared (31 percent) or where objectives are shared only for information purposes.


Further, CMOs who have formal yearly or half-yearly (68 percent) or monthly or quarterly meetings (65 percent), note higher levels of alignment than those with "ad hoc communications to monitor and review progress" (41 percent) or "ad hoc communications as issues arise" (30 percent).


Having an established communications plan to report progress of alignment between the groups helps to achieve the alignment goal.  Sixty-six percent of companies with one in place report being "fully aligned" versus 32 percent of companies that only communicate on an ad hoc basis.


"Each external communication form is a marketing channel and must be managed that way,” says John DuPont, senior vice president, global brand management and strategic planning, RE/MAX. “Today's savvy public is listening not only to overt messaging but also to the nuances of every communication: its style, emotion, design, tone, quality.


"Everything from advertising and collateral, media relations, conference content to webinars and e-mails reflect on a brand and influence image.  The CMO must forge a truly collaborative environment to ensure consistency of all communications."


When it comes to collaboration, a majority of CMOs are tackling activities that are traditionally considered outside of their core job description.  For instance, 52 percent of CMOs say they are solely responsible for crisis and issues management, 34 percent for investor relations, 23 percent for employee communications, 66 percent for media relations, and 55 percent for blogger relations.  


When it comes to sole responsibility, 74 percent of CMOs at pure business-to-business companies report they are responsible for blogger relations compared to 41 percent of CMOs at pure business-to-consumer companies, and 71 percent of business-to-business CMOs are guiding the strategy and implementation of crisis/issues management compared to 25 percent of their consumer-facing counterparts.  Other comparisons of sole responsibility in ancillary activities include employee communications (31 percent versus nine percent), investor relations (47 percent versus 16 percent) and customer relationship management (59 percent versus 34 percent).


The survey also found that while having employees serve as brand ambassadors is viewed as valuable and vital, only a small group of companies currently have a fully established program to engage them as such. In the survey, 70 percent of CMOs report they do not have an active employee engagement program. Nearly half (46 percent) report they are working on developing a program and 17 percent were not working on a program at all, but plan to work on one at some stage.


Fifty-eight percent of CMOs report that marketing spearheads efforts to galvanize employees, while 19 percent note these efforts are led by corporate communications, eight percent by human resources and 16 percent by a blended team that includes marketing.  Forty-five percent of CMOs at business-to-business companies report having a program already in place for employees, versus 16 percent for business to consumer.